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Learn the Lingo to Ensure Success

belied the solid foundation provided by the various members of the project team. Now that we are all sitting on top of the iceberg, we have to learn to play together or communicate with one another.

COs and ASIs are essentially equal because they both direct the contractor to make changes to the contract. There is one big difference, however. The CO involves additional charges; the ASI does not.

The ASI is typically used to clarify design intent, and there will be no change in the contract price. The choice of instrument to be used is determined by the architect. Usually the consultant has to determine a rough estimate of these changes and discuss them with the architect and the owner. If there is a cost change, whether it is a cost increase or a decrease, a CO will be issued. If not, the contractor sees an ASI.

COs or Supplemental Instructions can also result from another formal communication tool — the Request for Information (RFI). It contains questions such as, how do I fix this problem; the specified device is no longer available, what do I substitute; this unit will not fit into the space provided, how do we modify the construction or the design to accommodate it; or there is no detail that covers this mounting condition, how do you (the consultant or architect) want this installed? The contractor may include a possible solution, if he has one, with his question. A CO or an ASI would result from this. If the contractor feels there may be an additional cost associated with this change, this is noted and the design team comes back and asks the contractor to provide a Change Order Proposal (COP) based on the proposed solution.

These are all formal means of communications, somewhat like a band leader sounding the samba whistle to indicate a change in pattern, speed, or rhythm to the rest of the team. There are also informal communication paths.

If a consultant is on site, it's a great time to ask a question before it becomes an issue. The contractor and the consultant can work out the issue on site, and follow it up with the formal documentation shortly after. This is more like the tumbadora and the conga players listening to the quinto player during his lead and adjusting their patterns a little to match, making sure the whole group stays in sync and the song moves forward.

Whether beating the drums or finishing the project, the goal is the same — creating something that brings life and pleasure. In both instances, the key is communication and respect for each other and the task at hand. If you play well together, you always get to play again.

Thom Mullins is a senior consultant with BRC Acoustics & Technology Consulting in Seattle. He can be reached at

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